Chanukah lasts for eight days. Because the Jewish calendar is lunar (it goes by the moon) its English date changes each year, and this year it begins on the evening of December 4th. That’s when Jewish families around the globe will light their Chanukiahs. Their what? I hear you ask…Read on, and all will be revealed!
What is Chanukah?
Chanukah is known as the Festival of Lights. It celebrates the great victory won by the Macabees, who fought, long ago, against the evil Syrian King Antiochus. He wanted them to reject their God and their religion. Many refused, and they included a man called Judah Macabee.
Judah and his brothers set up an army. Eventually they defeated the King and were able to then clean up and rededicate the Jewish temple which had been completely defiled. But when they wanted to light the eternal light in the temple (which is supposed to be alight all the time) they found they didn’t have enough oil. In fact, there was just enough for one day.
Someone was sent to get more oil, but a miracle happened, the small amount they had stayed burning for eight days – until more could be found.
What happens at Chanukah?
Lighting the Chanukiah…
The Chanukah Menorah has nine spaces for candles – one for each of the eight nights, and one for the Shamash, or servant candle.
The Shamash candle is lit first, and it is then used to light another candle each night. Candles are lit each evening, and go from left to right.
Blessings are said – and traditional songs sung - when the candles are lit.
Like most Jewish festivals, Chanukah has rather a strong connection with food! Because of the miracle that occurred with the oil, the foods tend to be fried in oil (not very healthy, although delicious). Popular dishes include doughnuts and also potato pancakes called latkes (see our recipe below). These are often served with apple sauce or sour cream.
Enjoy eating latkes:
You will need:
450g potatoes, peeled
Plain flour (around 40g)
A little salt
Around half a cup of oil
Chop the onion
Grate the potatoes (you can do this in a food processor if you’re lazy!) and then drain them in a colander or sieve. Push them a bit to make sure that the liquid really goes away.
Add the salt and the egg and mix together
Heat oil in a frying pan
Fry tablespoonfuls of the mixture for a few minutes each side.
Chanukah usually occurs around the same time of year as Christmas. Families exchange presents - often one small present for each of the eight days.
One of the most recognisable symbols of Chanukah is the dreidl.
It is a four sided spinning top, with letters on the side.
These letters are Shin, Hey, Gimel and Nun. Put together, they mean “A Great Miracle Happened There.”
In order to play Dreidl, you need some chocolate coins, raisins or nuts.
Each player starts with a certain number of these, and puts one in a pot in the middle. They then start spinning the dreidl in turn.
If it stops on a Nun – they get nothing.
If it stops on a Gimel – they take all the coins/raisins in the pot.
If it stops on Hey – they take half of what is in the pot.
If it stops on a Shin – they must put one token in the pot.
The game is over when one person has all the coins.